Farewell Leighton Baines. The quirky left-back quietly departed Everton after 13 years and 420 games at the end of the 2019/20 season, hanging up his boots and calling time on his career with minimal fuss or fanfare.
Baines was one of the great left-backs of late noughties and 2010s Premier League football. He was a real fantasy football diamond, and his alternative, off-beat style makes him one of English football's most under-appreciated personalities.
The full-back is Merseyside born and bred, but didn't initially make the grade at Everton as a teenager. He instead moved to Wigan, and was an integral part of Paul Jewell's side that earned promotion to the top flight for the first time in the club's history.
A move to Everton did eventually come to fruition in 2007, David Moyes paying £6m to bring him to Goodison. Moyes departed in 2013 for the greener grass of Manchester United, and four more permanent managers would come and go, but Baines remained. There was interest from United too, on more than one occasion – before and during Moyes' rein at Old Trafford.
But the left-back would not be tempted. He never once threw his toys out of his pram and demanded a move. He remained loyal and content at Goodison.
Who could blame him? Baines was adored by fans, who will treasure him as an all-time great despite an FA Cup runners-up medal the only honour he has to show for a sparkling 13 years with the club.
The partnership Baines formed with Steven Pienaar down the left flank produced some of the best and most successful football of the Moyes tenure. With his ability to bomb forward, his wicked left-footed delivery and set-piece expertise, he was almost a pre-cursor to what the full-back position would blossom into in 2020.
Baines netted 26 out of his 29 spot kicks for the Toffees. A defender who took penalties and bagged a tonne of assists? An absolute fantasy football dream.
But it wasn't just fantasy football teams he was being selected for. Baines was named in the 2011/12 and 2012/13 PFA Teams of the Year, and he earned his first England call-up in 2010.
The Everton defender was unfortunate to be playing in the same era as Ashley Cole, as he would have otherwise added considerably to his 30 England caps.
He was first-choice left-back for his country during the Three Lions's ill-fated 2014 World Cup campaign, and although neither Baines or any of the England squad dazzled in Brazil, he continued to show his alternative side by learning guitar during the tournament.
Baines' off the pitch persona is almost as captivating as what he produced on the football field.
He has a love for indie music. He likes the XX, Paul Weller and Bob Dylan. He hung out with the Arctic Monkeys at Glastonbury. He wrote a music blog.
"It builds on the psychedelic sound that Innerspeaker possessed and while still full of distortion, fuzz and effects, it is also more melodic and the songwriting is improved from Kevin Parker, whose multi-tracked vocals are very Lennon-esque."
Leighton Baines wrote that sentence. That was about Tame Impala's 2012 Album Lonerism.
We’d like to welcome a new guitar player to the band. Please welcome the newest Arctic Monkey, Leighton Baines! pic.twitter.com/YmPHnFRP5i— brandon (@b7andonnn) July 26, 2020
The 35-year-old's retirement was typical of Baines as a person. The defender is not on social media, and often shuns the spotlight. He'd only told Carlo Ancelotti he was retiring shortly before kick-off against Bournemouth on the final game of the season.
You would imagine that, if Ancelotti had given Baines the same farewell that he gave Luke Garbutt, Baines would have actually been pretty content.
With Baines goes a little bit more of that Everton noughties spirit. Like so many others recruited during that time, he was a player not bought for very much, with no ego, who blossomed into one of the most dependable players in the Premier League. The club are moving in a completely new direction now, but they should cling onto as much Leighton Baines as they can.
Source : 90min